CPTSD – Complex PTSD

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) is a condition that is caused by chronic, prolonged exposure to severe traumatizations. 

While many are familiar with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, the term Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or CPTSD, remains largely unheard of and grossly misunderstood. In fact, despite having been first described by Harvard professor of clinical psychology, Judith Herman, in her article Trauma & Recovery (1992) as “the syndrome that follows upon prolonged, repeated trauma,” it has yet to be fully recognized as a disorder

by the Diagnostic Statistics Manual (DSM). However, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which is maintained by the World Health Organization (and is also used for classifying mental disorders) HAS decided to include it in the upcoming 11th edition. What’s more is that the DSM will be phased out. In 2018 will be superseded by the ICD-11. Finally, there is hope.

Understanding Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Many traumatic events (such as car accidents, violence or natural disasters, etc.) are of time-limited duration. However, in some cases, some individuals experience chronic trauma that continues or repeats for months or years at a time. The current PTSD diagnosis often does not fully capture the severe psychological harm that occurs with prolonged, repeated trauma. People who experience chronic trauma often report additional symptoms alongside formal PTSD symptoms, such as changes in their self-concept and the way they adapt to stressful events.


Unlike PTSD which sometimes develops from exposure to a single traumatic event (e.g., rape, witnessing a dangerous, terrifying incident), CPTSD, on the other hand, develops from chronic, repetitive trauma where there is generally no possibility of escape from the perpetrator and oftentimes when the victim is kept under the control of the abuser. Examples include those subjected to captivity, torture, concentration camps, a victim/refugee of human trafficking, organized child exploitation rings, or victims of long-term domestic violence or child abuse – most notably that of physical and sexual abuse.

The Importance?

Exposure to multiple traumatic events, particularly in childhood, has been shown to result in more complex symptoms than those seen after exposure to a single traumatic event. In case of overlooking the link between trauma and psychopathology, patients with multiple traumatic experiences receive a variety of different diagnoses that are unable to completely cover the clinical picture. Misdiagnoses of genuine cases inevitably lead to mistreatment. A diagnosis of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been proposed to cover the emerging psychopathology in survivors of multiple traumas.

What is CPTSD

The Goal?

Unlike other websites that rely upon the sales of self-published, or a co-partnered material on this topic or similar disorders — or are the creations of nonprofit and/or private agencies, CPTSD.com is not geared at generating any profit aside from the cost of maintaining this site, and was developed solely by a private individual whose main objectives are:

  • To increase public awareness into this need for this proposed disorder
  • Allow individuals suffering from CPTSD a forum to share their stories and connect with others who have been through or currently being affected by it.
  • Continuing further education and insight into CPTSD 

In doing so, it is our hope that the growing numbers of people suffering from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be treated and further trauma can be prevented.


Herman, J. (2012). CPTSD is a Distinct Entity: Comment on Resick et al. (2012). Journal of Traumatic Stress, 25, 256-257.

Cloitre, M., Garvert, D., Brewin, C., Bryant, R., & Maercker, A. (2013). Evidence for proposed ICD-11 PTSD and complex PTSD: a latent profile analysis. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 4. doi:10.3402/ejpt.v4i0.20706

Taycan, O., & Yildirim, A. (2015). An Alternative Approach to the Effects of Multiple Trauma: Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Arch Neuropsychiatrist, 52, 312-314. doi:10.5152/npa.2015.7573